5.1 STATE PLANS
5.2 HUNTING AND FISHING
5.5 OTHER RECREATION
5.6 SUMMARY CONCLUSIONS--OUTDOOR RECREATION
Despite the fact that Merrymeeting is an important outdoor recreational resource for many residents of the neighboring towns and, to a lesser degree, for significant numbers of Maine citizens, little detailed and documented information as to the numbers of users and/or types of activities is available. This section has, therefore, tapped a variety of sources in an effort to focus on current and future out- door recreation needs and opportunities. (Urban outdoor recreation is not made part of this discussion as it is outside the study area,)
At a statewide level, the Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP) acts as a source for some broad-brush recommendations; these are discussed below. The 1970 Tourism in Maine report provides some clues as to out of state tourist recreational needs as does the 1973 Open Space Plan. Both these reports are touched on here and summarized in Section 7.1.
Hunting and fishing are very important recreational pursuits enjoyed by many Merrymeeting Bay users yet much of the statistical information on these activities is outdated. Mendall and Spencer's early (1948- 1.957) studies have been utilized as have Peppard and Donovan's 1972 migratory bird report and Lewis N. Flagg's (1972) studies of fishing in Maine but this office's efforts to get up to date information from local rod and gun clubs through questionnaires has been thwarted by poor response.
Other information on recreation activities in the Bay area has been gathered from local residents, a questionnaire sent to snowmobilers, and from officials knowledgeable in the area. The Bureau of Parks and Recreation and the Department of Inland Fisheries and Game have also assisted by providing information available through their files.
The Maine State Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP)
addresses recreation needs in the state on two levels; first by
region and, second by day-use area. Eight regions are identified and
the Merrymeeting Bay area falls centrally into Region 2, that area
defined by Kennebec, Androscoggin, Sagadahoc, and Lincoln counties.
Day-use areas are defined as population centers of more than 5,000
people within a 20-mile radius (see map)
Because Region 2 includes coast land and areas beyond the Bay's sphere of influence as a recreational resource (except for hunting), it is diffi- cult to make judgments about the Bay itself from the Plan. Of interest though is the fact that the regional resident population of over 230,000 persons is doubled during the peak tourist season. It must again be assumed, however, that the majority of these summer visitors reside on or near the coast.
The table below lists the main activities of Region 2 in order of user demand and summarizes the acre land need for each activity for now and the years 1980 and 1990 as recommended in SCORP (the figures are accumulative).
TABLE 5-1 ACRE LAND NEEDS IN REGION 2 (1970-1990) Activity 1970 1980 1990 Swimming 773 1,418 2,618 Boating 1,798 3,285 5,776 Picnicking 3,344 4,825 6,995 Camping 17,650 23,651 32,082 Ice Skating 24 35 50 Hiking 2,856 4,182 6,018 Snowmobiling Snow Skiing 80 148 259 Nature Trails 357 612 1,020 Horseback Riding -- -- 408 Canoeing 10 10 10 Totals 26,892 38,166 55,236
In sum, the Department of Parks and Recreation recommends that over 55,000 acres of additional land be acquired in the four-county region before 1990 to fulfill user demand. Thus, if the Bay area towns represent a sixth of the region (40,000 persons out of 230,000), it could be construed that over 9,000 acres be acquired in the Bay town area. The need according to SCORP is primarily for "General Outdoor" and "Natural Environment" type land rather than that classified as "High Density" or "Primitive." The Bay area fits the former two classes rather than the latter. Yet if the activities listed in the table are viewed separately, it is evident that the specialized and unique qualities of the Bay itself make many of these uses inappropriate to a location on or next to it.
The tidal flats make swimming and boating inadvisable and, as most camp sites rely on these activities as major attractions, recreational camping is not best located on the Bay shores.
Picnic sites as scenic overlooks are appropriate to a few locations on the Bay and its roadways and trails for hiking, nature observation, riding, and in winter, snowmobiling are also suitable activities for the immediate Bay environs. In addition, some stretches of the tribu- tary streams are good for canoeing (see Section 5.3, Boating).
Thus the Merrymeeting Bay area itself does not help meet many of the needs identified in SCORP. This does not mean that other locations in the Bay area towns are not suitable for camping and picnicking. There are areas, particularly in Bowdoin and Dresden or Woolwich, which may be suitable for these activities. SCORP does not suggest specific locations where acquisition should occur.
Three day-use areas touch on the Bay but only the Brunswick Day-Use Area relates strongly to it (see map). Needed facilities for Brunswick, as identified by SCORP, are swimming areas, urban trails, and snow skiing. Bath needs a multiple-purpose municipal park and areas for swimming, picnicking, boating, outdoor games, nature study, snow skiing, hunting and bird-watching seasons don't coincide with the peak tourist season. In addition, the Bay itself is not visible from many places on the roads around it. Some of the roads are, however, scenic and could provide scenic overlooks of the Bay. Camping sites, as has been stated, are most often associated with bathing facilities and/or prime tourist attractions and as the Bay does not provide either of these it is unlikely that numerous camp sites will be established along its shores.
Interestingly, the Tourism in Maine report states: "Since 75% of all hunters and fishermen are residents, half of all state expenditures for resident tourists are made to provide services for this group." This statement thus also shows that despite the fact that most hunters and fishermen are in-staters, there is a significant number of non-resident tourists who come to Maine for this pursuit and undoubtedly some use the Bay.
The March 1973 Open Space Plan prepared for the Bath/Brunswick Regional Planning Commission does not address recreation in terms of park and playground needs or in terms of needed activities but focuses on the visual/natural environment. This plan, like SCORP, recommends the formation of a regional agency to acquire, plan, and develop land for open space purposes. It also puts some emphasis on the creation of trail systems in the Bay area.
The most significant recommendations of the Open Space Plan concern land acquisition. These-are described in this report and shown on Map 11.
The existence of eight rod & gun clubs in the Bay area attests
to the popularity of fishing and hunting there. The fact that
Merrymeeting Bay produces some of the best smelt fishing and
waterfowl hunting in the state again speaks to the importance of
these recreational .pursuits. Deer hunting is also enjoyed by many
Merrymeeting Bay falls primarily into the West Coastal deer hunting unit (as defined in a 1966 Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Game leaflet). The unit as a whole has the largest resident popula- tion and experiences the lowest hunter kill ratio in the state. The table below shows the deer harvest for the Bay area towns for the years 1968 through 1972. In those years, the harvest varied from 227 deer to 574 for seven towns excluding Richmond, Little can be deduced from these figures; the harvest fluctuates annually depending on a variety of factors. The kill ratio per hunter, however, is likely to remain low because of population increases in the area as a whole.
TABLE: 5-2 Deer Harvest by Town 1968-1972 TOWNSHIP 1968 1969 1970 1971 1972 Dresden 99 69 94 73 88 Bath 6 12 5 3 6 Bowdoin 163 60 62 27 92 Bowdoinham 124 75 81 38 90 Topsham 72 52 51 36 69 Brunswick 38 27 15 11 12 Woolwich 72 80 69 39 89 TOTALS 574 375 377 227 446 SOURCE: Time and Tide, SCS 1974.
Mendall and Spencer in "Waterfowl Harvest Studies in Maine" (1948-1957) provide considerable information on duck hunting in Merrymeeting Bay and, although this data is dated, it is evident, according to Howard Spencer, that the trends noted then are much the same today.
Bird kills in the Bay averaged 2.53 birds per man-day in the 1948-1957 period and 2.4 in 1971 (the state average is 2.1 per man-day). Some 20% of the total in-state waterfowl hunting occurs there. Black ducks compose over 50% of the harvest with Green-winged teal, Goldeneye, Blue-winged teal, wood duck, and Bufflehead being the next most hunted birds. Among the factors that make Merrymeeting Bay such an important waterfowl hunting area are: (1) it combines both coastal and inland waters; (2) the nature of the vegetation makes it attractive to migrating waterfowl; (3) early migration patterns of young ducks to the Bay increase early season concentration; (4) it is easily acces- sible to a large proportion of the state's hunting population.
Spencer contends that today's hunters regulate themselves and he does not foresee a situation where overcrowding could become a problem. Gary Donovan, Regional Wildlife Biologist for the Department of Inland Fisheries and Game, states that hunting pressure varies considerably throughout the fall with the heaviest effort being on opening day,
In a survey conducted by this office, waterfowl hunters indicated that they hunted throughout the Bay but concentrate on the vegetated tidal flats (see Map No. 12).
Public and private access to the Bay is gained mainly at the following locations: the Bath downtown waterport, West Branch Cove, Butler Cove, the Old Bath Road told bridge crossing), Centers Point, Cork Cove, at the bridges at the mouths of the Abagadasset, Eastern, and Muddy Rivers and in the villages of Richmond and Bowdoinham (see map). Two new public access points are presently being developed by the Department of Inland Fisheries and Game, one off Route 24 on the Muddy River in Topsham, the other on the east bank of the Eastern River in Dresden, south of the village. There is still a need for access points on the east of the Bay.
Rod and gun club-owned land is mapped on Map No. 12. Fishing is an active recreational sport in the Bay and smelt, striped bass, and perch are commonly caught. Smelt is caught primarily at smelt camps on the rivers of the Bay (see map). As the table below indicates, there were 476 camps in the area in 1971. The season depends on the weather, but most camps are in place in early February and remain through much of March. The main income from smelt is derived from rental, bait supply, and wood sales rather than from the value of smelt caught.
TABLE 5-3 SMELT CAMPS (1971) Area Private Rental Total Eastern River 139 129 268 Cathance River 75 45 120 Muddy River 19 0 19 Abagadasset River 62 7 69 TOTALS 295 181 476 SOURCE: The Anadromous Smelt Fishery of Maine, Lewis Flagg, June 1972.
Sturgeon are also taken by local fishermen in the Eastern and Cathance Rivers.
A questionnaire prepared by this office and addressed to all the rod and gun clubs utilizing the Bay resulted in only four responses, despite follow-up phone calls. Much of the information obtained from these has been incorporated into this report, however, the following statistics are of interest:
TABLE 5-4 ROD & GUN CLUB MEMBERSHIP & ACTIVITIES Club Name No. of Deer Waterfowl Fishermen Members Hunters Hunters Bowdoinham Rod & Gun 40-50 35 all all Sagadahoc Rod & Gun 125 100 70 40 Bath Rod, Gun & Skeet + 50 20-30 20-30 10-20 Wiscasset Rod & Gun 30 10 10 ?
Of interest is that despite the fact that deer kill ratios in the region are low and waterfowl ratios high hunters in the Bay area participate in both in equal numbers.
One club felt that "posted land is a problem" and suggested that hunting rights be obtained from shoreline residents by lease or gift or outright purchase. The same club was in favor of tight restrictions on development so as to insure the preservation of the Bay in a wild state. It was also suggested that the Butler Cove access be improved for boat launching and parking (the land is owned by the City of Bath).
Bowdoinham has a like problem in that the town has stopped parking around the "Abby" bridge; access and parking in this area should be improved according to the respondents.
Boating on the Bay is primarily related to fishing, waterfowl
hunting, and bird watching. Some canoeing takes place but is confined
mostly to the Eastern, Abagadasset, and Cathance Rivers.
No boats are permitted in the wildlife sanctuary areas of the Bay and there is a general speed limit of 10 m.p.h. for all areas except those within the buoyed channels. In some areas the Bay is unsuitable for recreational motorboating as the tidal changes make the water depths unpredictable. Portions of the river channel are used, however, for occasional recreational excursions. This is particularly true of the Kennebec around Swan Island where a survey at the Richmond landing in the summer of 1972 indicated that 67% of the boat trips were for excursions (see table below). Little research, however, has been conducted as to the number, type, and purpose of boats using the Bay; although as mentioned above the Bureau of Parks and Recreation did undertake a statewide boat user survey for the months of June, July, and August. That survey included monitoring the Richmond Park public landing for which the following statistics apply:
Average daily use on weekends 45,6 boats Average daily use on weekdays 28.3 boats Percentage of Motorboats 95% Percentage of Canoes 5% Percentage of Fishing Excursions 33% Percentage of Recreational Excursions: 67%
It should be noted that these are figures for a few months for only one access point; in addition, they are extrapolated from only 20 hours of on-site observation. Further, they do not give any idea as to boat use during the hunting season. One point is of particular interest, however, 97% of the persons using the Richmond landing were Maine people, a high figure considering this survey occurred during the peak tourist season.
Canoeists use the Eastern, Abagadasset, and Cathance Rivers. The Eastern is used by summer camp canoeists and some canoe down river to camp overnight on Swan Island.
The best canoeing on the "Abby" is between the railroad crossing and the river mouth. The best route on the Cathance is between the old mill site on the Cathance Road in Topsham and the village of Bowdoinham (Map No. 4).
The Coast Guard operates a buoy boat for maintenance of the channel markers and also uses an ice cutter on occasion to break up spring ice so as to maintain the Kennebec channel. They also provide a search and rescue service.
During the peak waterfowl and foliage seasons, organized excursion boats visit the Bay. The Maine Audubon Society organizes some of these, leaving for trips out of Bath and Southport. In 1975 four such trips will be scheduled for mid-April and two in the fall.
Some residents feel that there is a need for harbormaster for the Bay to police the speed limit, channel boundaries, and any boating restric- tions. Such an individual could also police the smelt camps in winter.
Snowmobiling has enjoyed increasing popularity over the past five
years. Registration statewide has increased from over 29,000
snowmobiles in 1969-70 to over 60,000 in 1973-74. This popularity is
reflected in the number of snowmobile clubs that have formed all over
the state. Six clubs operate in the Merrymeeting Bay area. These
clubs were sent questionnaires by this office; however, the response
was so poor that few conclusions can be drawn. Two clubs sent partial
answers to the questionnaires; these are summarized below.
The Dresden Snow Valley Riders have 70 members and expect membership to remain at this level, They meet about six times a year, have a clubhouse in the village and have about 15 miles of marked trails, most of which lie to the east of the village and the Eastern River.
The Pejebscot Sno-Chiefs have most of their trails in Topsham. The map shows their approximate location. It should be noted that snowmobiles use the Bay itself as a trail area when it ices up.
The 106th Legislature gave the Bureau of Parks and Recreation the responsibility of planning for snowmobile trails and "related facilities," the objective being to determine trails currently in use and to establish a statewide system of trails. The Bureau, with the Regional Planning Agencies, has a 75% state--25% local, grant-in-aid program to assist municipalities in this endeavor. No towns in the Bay area have applied for funding as yet.
Since snowmobiling is a winter sport the possibility of utilizing their trails for hiking and riding during the spring, summer, and fall is worth investigating, especially as the SCORP study identified a need for such activities. (The SCORP plan did not, however, suggest land acquisition specifically for snowmobiles.)
A number of other outdoor recreation activities occur in the study
area on a less intensive scale than those mentioned earlier. These
are discussed below.
Scenic drives (or sightseeing drives) are popular with tourists and in-state residents alike; they are particularly important to less physically mobile persons. Although, as has been stated, the Bay area roads are not of outstanding scenic value, they are utilized for sight- seeing. They also provide some scenic vistas of the Bay and its rivers. For these reasons they should be improved as scenic ways and steps should be taken to ensure that the few vistas be preserved and enhanced-- perhaps as scenic picnic areas or simply as turnouts. The more important scenic viewpoints (from a motorists' or cyclists' standpoint) are located on Map. No. 14.
Two large summer camps occur in the study area; one in Richmond, north of the village between Route 24 and the Kennebec and another on East Chops Point in Woolwich, A private KOA camp is located off Route 201 on the shove of Pleasant Pond in Richmond and Stoddard's Pond Camps is located eight miles north of Brunswick on Route 201. A private hunting camp named Island View Sportel is located off Route 24 on the Kennebec in Bowdoinham.
Only one ski facility is located in the area, a small operation called Sky-Hy on the Meadow Road in Topsham. The vertical descent is less than 200 feet and on a good day little more than a hundred skiers use the slopes. There are no opportunities for other ski slopes in the Bay towns.
Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are sports fast gaining in popularity among a segment of the population. Abandoned town roads and old logging roads (particularly in the upper Cathance valley in Bowdoin) are well suited to this winter use as well as to snowmobile use. Again, the dual use of trail facilities such as these should be investigated with the summer use being riding and hiking.
For persons interested in nature and particularly in bird watching and wildflowers Swan Island is available for nature trips and the Inland Fisheries and Game Department has a waterfowl sanctuary south of Abagadasset Point. The privately owned Robert Tristam Coffin Wildflower Preserve is located on the east of the Bay above the Chops in Woolwich. The Department of Inland Fisheries and Game has also acquired about 160 acres on the Muddy River, an area well suited for wildlife habitat. Other recent acquisitions by the Department in the Bay area include an additional eight acres adjoining the Bowdoinham Wildlife Management Area and seven acres that will give hunter access to the Bay, in Dresden on the Eastern. All these are mapped on map No. 12.
As is pointed out in section 3.7 (Significant Natural Areas), Mt. Ararat Caves, Topsham Falls, and the Cathance Gorge all occur in close proximity to each other and, together with canoeing and hiking activities, could become a recreational area. The combination of scenic, historic, and geologic features found here lend further validity to conserving the area for recreation purposes (see map No. 14).
In March 1974 the Bureau of Parks and Recreation and the Department of Transportation published "Bicycling in Maine." This study notes that Brunswick has marked bicycle routes for recreation and community purposes. These are in the village area only. Otherwise no urban or rural bikeways are recommended in the Merrymeeting Bay study area. There are no abandoned railroad rights of way either, that could be adapted for bicycling. At present the only routes would be the existing rural routes--the least safe of all the bikeway options.
The SCORP report identifies a need for extensive outdoor
recreation space in Region 2. Since the Bay towns are central to the
major popu- lation centers of that region, areas suitable for the
identified activities should be found within them. The foregoing
discussion has, however, shown that some activities preclude others
and that environmental. considerations are important to the location
of particular activities.
Thus, in sum, the Bay itself and its immediate shorelands are best suited for hunting and fishing and the observation of nature. Various trail sports, such as hiking, snowmobiling, and horseback riding also appear appropriate. The Bay is not suited to swimming, extensive recreational boating, and camping activities.
The roads that skirt the Bay, principally Route 24 on the west and Routes 127 and 128 on the east, should be upgraded as scenic routes to cater to the demand for tourist sightseeing and advantage should be taken of locations that provide scenic viewpoints.
Consideration should be given to the upper Cathance area as a location for those activities unsuited to the Bay environment yet needed regionally. Camping sites in this area would be central and easily accessible from I-95 and Route 201. The wild nature of the area, the uneven topography, and existence of the Cathance itself along with a number of old abandoned roads argue strongly in favor of camping, picnicking, and again trail recreational sports in this area.
This chapter has also shown that outdoor recreation in the Bay area towns should be geared to the needs of the local residents and Maine people--rather than to tourists.
Following is a summation of the more important points made in this chapter: - Regional outdoor recreation needs (as identified in SCORP) should be provided for, in part, within the study area (specifically; trails, camping and picnic areas, and canoeing areas).
- The Bay's best recreational value is for hunting and fishing land any boating associated with these activities), It is also welt suited to nature observation, canoeing ton the lower reaches of its rivers) and boating related to sightseeing (as against power speed boating, sailing, water skiing, etc.). - Parts of the shore lands are suitable for trail recreational activities such as snowmobiling, horseback riding, and hiking. - Routes 24 and 128 could be upgraded for sightseeing as scenic routes, - Scenic viewpoints, which are relatively few and far between, should be maintained and developed as such--possibly as roadside turnouts and/or picnic spots. - The possibility of using the upper Cathance area in Bowdoin as a state camping and/or picnic area should be evaluated. The same area should be considered for the development of trails. - The possibility of developing the Cathance Gorge area in Topsham for trails, canoeing, and/or nature study should be considered. - The towns should be encouraged to establish nature centers and/or the state should consider establishment of a Merrymeeting Bay nature center. - Regarding fishing and hunting, the following observations merit attention: --Better public access to the Bay from the east is needed. --Some feel that waterfowl hunters will continue to regulate themselves as far as crowding pressures are concerned. --Some hunters favor restricting development on the shoreline in order to preserve the Bay in its wild state. --There is a parking problem for smelt fishermen at the Abagadasset Bridge. --75% of tourist hunters are Maine people. --97% of the boat users at Richmond in the- summer are Maine people. --20% of Maine's waterfowl hunters hunt Merrymeeting Bay. --Some residents see a need for a harbor master with jurisdiction over the whole Bay. - Two recent studies (SCORP and the Open Space Plan) call for the establishment, through legislation, of a regional recreational (or open space) authority to plan for, acquire, develop, and manage recreational areas.
The above points when judged in the context of other findings and viewed in terms of their environmental impact form the basis for the recommendations contained in Chapter 8.
TABLE 5-5 RECREATIONAL RESOURCES INVENTORY (SOURCE: Coastal Planning Unit, State Planning Office) BATH Indoor facilities 1. Bath YMCA 2 gymnasiums indoor pool 2. Bath Marine Museum Outdoor facilities 3. Merrymeeting Snow-trailers snowmobile area 4. Butler's Cove 135-acre, 2-mile frontage for local campers, duck hunters; municipal ownership 5. Bath Golf Club - 60 acres; private 6. Rod & Gun Club - 27.5 acres; private 7. Bath Recreation Park; 24 acres including 4 tennis courts 1 baseball field 1 football field 1 general field 1 track course 1 basketball court 1 swimming pool 8. Mitchell School 1 basketball court 9. Fisher School gymnasium 1 playground 1 basketball court 1 general field 10. Hyde School gymnasium 1 tennis court 1 football field 1 track course 3 basketball courts 11. Elmhurst School playground 12. Huse-Small School Complex 2 baseball fields 1 playground 2 basketball courts 13. Dyke School 1 playground 1 basketball court 14. Newell School 1 general field 1 playground 1 basketball court 1 gymnasium 15. Morse High 2 basketball courts 16. Municipal Waterfront Park 4 picnic tables; municipal ownership 17. Goddard's Pond skating; municipal ownership 18. Northend Skating Pond 19. Library - City Park 20. Municipal boatdock on Kennebec 21. Municipal boat ramp - 1 acre; parking for 50 to be added 22. Long Reach Mooring 28 slips, 8 moorings boat rental; private ownership 23. Bath Fuel Marine ramp, docking for 20 boats; private 24. MacDonalds boatyard 20 moorings, 82 slips; private 25. Babe Ruth Field - baseball 26. Swimmer's Rock; private, local. swimming hole. BOWDOIN 27. Adams School 28. Jacques School BOWDOINHAM Indoor facilities 29. Coombs School gymnasium Outdoor facilities 30. Community School 1 tennis court 1 baseball field 1 basketball court 31. Municipal boat landing; leased to town, ramp 32. Island View Sportel; hunting camp; private; Spear Sedgley, owner BRUNSWICK Indoor facilities 34. Evergreens Drop-in Center (Sr. Citizens) 35. Pejepscot Historical Society Outdoor facilities 36. Coffin Pond Nature Park cross-country skiing 16 picnic tables skating, swimming beach; public